Many Condo Associations offer free wireless internet access (wifi) for Owners in common areas as an amenity. It might be in your gym, your lobby, your pool – wherever. In today’s day and age where everyone is connected 24/7, this is amenity is typically well received and quite popular in a Condo Association. Unfortunately, it is also an amenity that can be ripe for abuse by unscrupulous Owners or strangers, making it essential that you secure your Condo Association’s wireless networks. These individuals can potentially use your publicly available networks for nefarious activity, which can run the gamut from low-grade torrenting of intellectual property infringing activities to deeper and darker activities. Such activities might include using your Condo Association’s wireless network as a launching point for hacking or sharing more illicit materials. Why would they do such a thing? Because anonymous unprotected networks are great ways to hide such illegal behavior. The bottom line is that you want to make sure you secure your Condo Association’s wireless networks to deter such behavior.
How Do You Know You Have a Problem?
Most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) monitor for unusual activity. They may reach out to you directly if they see things going on in your account. You might also get a notification from the copyright alert system. If you get an alert from them, there’s a good chance you’ve got nefarious behavior going on related to the streaming of videos. In extreme cases, you might even be contacted by law enforcement. But why wait to have a problem when you can be proactive in protecting yourself?
The Bare Minimum
The bare minimum to secure your Condo Association’s wireless networks is to make sure that you’ve got a password on your wireless network. Some communities will leave their routers open because they feel the area is geographically isolated enough from random passersby and a password is inconvenient. Do not give into this urge to be lazy. At a minimum, institute a basic password that will protect your wifi from people who are hunting for unsecured networks – and trust me, they’re out there. For added security, you should change your password every 90 days at the minimum, or every 30 days if you want to be more aggressive. Password protection won’t help you if your violator is someone who lives in your building, or someone who is collaborating with an Owner in your building, but it will ensure that you don’t get wanderers hopping on the network, or former Owners/renters who come back to do illegal things. It is, as stated, the bare minimum.
If you’ve got a persistent violator, or you want to invest into your security more aggressively, this next step is for you. You’ll want to invest in Deep Packet Inspection capability on your router and configure it to stop torrenting, or Peer-to-Peer activity. Deep Packet Inspection allows your router to automatically look for certain types of internet traffic (like file sharing) and block it. You’ll likely want to seek out a qualified IT provider to install this capability. You may want to also make sure you’re very tailored in what you block. For example, if you’ve got a router in your gym, you want to make sure you don’t block video streaming services like Hulu, since Owners may want to watch TV while they do their cardio. This capability is usually around $1,000 per router, so it isn’t cheap – but it will stop the vast majority of illegal activity. Considering how important free wifi is as an amenity, and considering how bad illegal file sharing is, this is a fair price to pay to prevent most bad behavior. When you combine this with regularly changing passwords, you’ll eliminate all but the most dedicated of criminal, which is generally what you’re aiming for with security.
If you really want to secure your Condo Association’s wireless networks, you can move to install credentials and access management software where individual Owners are assigned individual usernames and passwords which are used to access the wifi. This is an onerous system for everyone – it is expensive to install and maintain, and Owners tend to really not like this. It makes it more difficult for guests to use the system, as well (which is the point). A dedicated wrongdoer could still find ways to hack into people’s passwords and use other people’s accounts, but you’d have a more limited pool of individuals to go after. In general, this is overkill, and I would advise against going this route. But, if you wanted to, you could.
For most people, the bare minimum or moderate security options are sufficient to secure your Condo Association’s wireless networks. They’re cost-effective and will weed out most bad behavior. If you aren’t already securing your wireless networks or regularly changing your password, you should consider upping your security today. As with most things, it’s much easier to be proactive than reactive. Make sure you secure your Condo Association’s wireless networks before something bad happens.